Reader Q&A: When Matchy Names Aren’t Planned

A reader found the first part of our Super Matchy Super Clashy series on siblings with shared initials when searching for help with her real-life dilemma: her sons’ names ended up being more matchy than she had planned. She left a comment asking for help and I felt her story would be interesting to share.

D writes:

I found your article because I’m going through this exact problem. My first-born son’s name is Declan and we agonized over number two’s name. We knew we were having a boy and I had a list of lovely names that my husband didn’t like. The week before he was due Donovan resurfaced as a name he liked and when we left the hospital that was our chosen name however I honestly had never thought about what it would sound like with Declan and then hated that they had the same initials and sounded so matchy. I hadn’t ever thought through the sibling set names. Donovan is three months old and I’m still trying to convince my husband to change it! I love the name by itself but not with Declan!

Here was my response:

I know what it’s like to have these great names and not have them appreciated by the husband. Under those circumstances I can see how coordinating sibling names could get overlooked. In this situation, finding a name you both like is a huge step, and everything else seems secondary. Your story is a great example of how super matchy names aren’t always the result of parents trying to be cute, but rather they are often unintentional.

Unintentional matchy-ness is more likely than some may think because people tend to like similar sounds. For example, my daughter is Fiona, and some of my other top 5/top 10 girl names include Ione and Viola. Notice the repeating io. Notice how Fiona and Viola share all the same vowels in all the same places and have the same number of letters.

If you are planning on having more children, perhaps you could mention to your husband that you have sort of painted yourself in a corner. For example, if you had a third boy, Declan, Donovan, and Duncan seems a bit gimmicky.

From what I gather, it sounds as though your husband can’t imagine your son by any name other than Donovan. This is tough. I understand the pressure to want to change your son’s name sooner than later, but I also realize you need to have your husband on board.

Perhaps you could start calling your son by a different name paired with Donovan before officially changing it, and see if it sticks. For example, you could start calling him Seamus Donovan, in the hope that your husband could get used to that and then you could drop the Donovan or perhaps keep it as a middle name. And then after your son is known as just Seamus (as a random example), you could convince your husband to go through with making the paperwork change.

Getting a name that flows well before Donovan is a challenge, and maybe you already have a meaningful middle name. But in the case of an existing middle name you don’t want to drop, perhaps giving your son Donovan as an extra middle name would be a necessary compromise.

You could also say Donovan first with the new name second for flow. This would still give you the option to drop Donovan later. For example, Wallis Simpson was named Bessie Wallis, and was called Bessie Wallis as a kid, but dropped Bessie as an adult. But I would try to relegate Donovan to the second name if you can swing it.

Maybe some of these combos would appeal to you and your husband. Some of these ideas I got by entering “Donovan” or “Declan” at I don’t know what names your husband has vetoed.

Benjamin Donovan / Donovan Benjamin – you could use Ben Donovan, but then that sort of sounds like “bend over” or “Ben Dover”, a joke from “The Simpsons.”

Clancy Donovan / Donovan Clancy

Colin Donovan / Donovan Colin

Conroy Donovan / Donovan Conroy

Cormac Donovan / Donovan Cormac

Darby Donovan / Donovan Darby – If you like alliteration. Declan and Darby is an example of a set that shares initials but doesn’t share the N-ending, making it a little less matchy.

Flynn Donovan / Donovan Flynn

Keane Donovan / Donovan Keane

Killian Donovan / Donovan Killian

Kieran Donovan / Donovan Kieran

Liam Donovan / Donovan Liam

Malachy Donovan / Donovan Malachy

Murphy Donovan / Donovan Murphy

Noah Donovan / Donovan Noah

Owen Donovan / Donovan Owen

Rourke Donovan / Donovan Rourke

Riley Donovan / Donovan Riley

Riordan Donovan / Donovan Riordan – came up for both Donovan and Declan, but I am uncertain of pronunciation.

Shea Donovan / Donovan Shea

Tierney Donovan / Donovan Tierney

Nymbler has some great ideas, and I could go on, but wanted to keep the list manageable.

And while this may be little consolation now, perhaps you can take some comfort in knowing that when your sons grow up, they will not be known as a pair, and will be distinct individuals, with separate friends who may not even give a second thought to their matchy names.

Good luck.

Readers: Do you have any suggestions for D?


  1. I think that if your husband loves it as much as you say, you’re a little hosed. How about calling him Van instead? The legal name doesn’t change, but Declan and Van are cute brother names and not so matchy. I love both names, btw. I myself have a thing for D names, too. daria, daphne, dean, declan, dexter, devorah… I could go on. Not that with of my kids ended up with d names, darn!

  2. Are you planning on more children? If you’re not, I think you’re okay. Declan and Donovan are matchy, but unless you add Duncan, Deacon, and Devon into the mix, I wouldn’t be too troubled. I think Declan and Donovan are kind of charming together … And if you do use nicknames, Kayt’s suggestion is genius – Dex and Van are a really cool pair.

    Besides, if you do have a third and it is a girl, well … that’s the perfect excuse to break a pattern.

    As someone who unsuccessfully tried to convince her husband to change a son’s middle name, I feel your pain. But I do think there’s something to be said for making peace with it.

  3. I’d nickname him Novan

  4. I think perhaps matchy names are over-stigmatized. Sure, at times it can seem a bit much, though I don’t find brothers Declan and Donovan to be so. I’m also of the mind that disregarding beloved names just because they might be too matchy, share first initials, etc. is just as contrived as choosing names because they are matchy, share first initials, etc. Either way is fine, if that’s what that person feels is right. However, if Donovan’s name feels right, regardless of how it looks next to Declan, then perhaps it might be best to make peace with the unintentional matchiness.

    [Personal experience: My older brothers both go by names that are four-letters long and start with “R”. It wasn’t ever a big deal. I don’t even know if most people even thought about it. Then of course when I came along (as Abby mentions) they chose an “M” name.]

    • You make a good point about disregarding beloved names because they are too matchy being just as contrived as choosing names because they are matchy. The only time it really makes sense to discard a beloved name for being too matchy with a sibling is when the names are so similar that they are nearly indistinguishable. I don’t think that is the case with Declan and Donovan. The names aren’t so close that they are confusing.

  5. Wow thank you for all the suggestions and supportiveness! I had been toying with using Van instead and that probably is the best solution. I just don’t want to spend the rest of his life wishing he had a different name! He’s soooo perfect-both of my boys are -I want the perfect everything for them you know? I really liked the suggestion of using a new name plus Donovan to transition. But my whole family doesn’t mind the matchiness so it is hard to convince them of a change -I literally have been trying since like 2 days after we came home-after I had some sleep! But really thank you all for the help-I will let you know what happens!!! Oh and I have played around with nymbler too (cool site).

    • You sound like a very thoughtful Mom. But please don’t beat yourself up over your son possibly wishing he had a different name. There’s no way to predict how your son will feel about his name. Even if you found that name that goes perfectly with his brother’s, he still may not like it.

    • D you have great taste- I love both those names and have thought of them for my **Imaginary** children. And I too would have gone the Van route! Also, Dex can be a nn for Declan. Dex and Van- how cute and not at all matchy-matchy 🙂

      And if he grows and doesn’t like Van, there is always Don and Donny too, which I feel are less matchy with Declan.

  6. I don’t think their names are too matchy. I think they’re adorable! My sons have matchy names though but I like that. My oldest is Tommy (Thomas) and my newest son is Taddy (Thaddeus). I love it.

    I am really enjoying this blog btw!

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